One of the weirder aspects of the Election campaign – repeatedly aired in the Leaders’ Debates on television – is the polar extremes of how those of differing political persuasion view strategies to deal with the state of Britain’s finances.
The Tories have, as usual, nailed their colours to the mast as the future government of job and wealth creation, reducing the deficit and eventually getting the economy into a ‘surplus’ situation, albeit admittedly by a further period of ‘austerity getting worse before it gets better’ combined with hard work.
Elsewhere, the opposition parties are uniformly claiming that there are other, and better, ways.
Put at its simplest, Labour and the Lib-Dems seem to broadly and reluctantly accept that measures towards ‘balancing the books’, reducing the national deficit and indeed perhaps also the national debt, will have to be taken by any hue of Government that succeeds the Coalition from 8th May onwards to 2020.
In and around their manifesto launch Labour took trouble to project themselves as ‘the responsible party’, emphasising that all their financial initiatives will be fully-costed and funded – whilst simultaneously implying or stating that, in their desperation at failing to make progress in the polling trends, the Tories are being irresponsible by scraping the barrel to shower gifts upon all sections of society and ‘top’ any Labour or Lib-Dem spending commitments on the NHS and anything else that counts.
The Lib-Dems have promised ‘from cradle to college’ educational funding and £8 billion for the NHS, but otherwise are trying to position themselves as the only parliamentary grouping that could ‘restrain’ the nasty-party Tories from deliberately inflicting pain upon the poor and disadvantaged … and/or prevent Labour from wrecking the economy again … by being voted in to ‘hold the balance of power’ in any 2015 government of coalition.
Throughout both televised debates – and elsewhere – I have been struck by [whether misguided and/or delusional, or perhaps just unable or unwilling to think through the consequences of their ‘blue sky’-devised policies for use in this Election] how lacking in sense and even ‘understanding of how the world works’ the lesser parties have been.
Nigel Farage (UKIP), perhaps playing to type as ‘the man down the pub’, has the advantage of being able to make populist arguments that, at a superficial level, may seem like bold and straightforward solutions to a variety of problems, but I strongly suspect that – of all the party leaders – he would have one of the biggest ‘cold showers’ the moment UKIP ever got anywhere near power or government [which of course they never will].
Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Natalie Bennett (Green) are united by one thing besides their gender.
They all want, indeed have pledged, to ‘end austerity’ … as if they fondly imagine that the Coalition government of the past five years – well, the Tories because the Lib-Dems are simply the Tories’ poodles – have made a deliberate and ideological decision to inflict pain and suffering upon the ‘working’ class, the poor, the disabled and the downtrodden, the vulnerable and those who genuinely need welfare help. This (presumably) whilst quaffing champagne in central London nightclubs … in the Spanish holiday villas of their ‘fat cat’, tax evading, casino bonus-making, toff banker pals … and in the corporate hospitality tents of Wimbledon, Ascot and Henley.
Their biggest misconception – in my view – is to regard ‘austerity’ as some form of optional extra to national economic policy. In other words, that to impose austerity is a deliberate an ideological choice of the Coalition government, whereas they (the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens) believe that the UK could have fought its way out of its fiscal and economic crisis without implementing a household-style ‘cut costs and improve revenues’ regime.
Do they honestly think that the Tories would have gone for ‘austerity’ if there had been a cast-iron alternative available that did not involve it?
If so, they’re even thicker than I thought.
The Tories’ biggest electoral problem has always been that they’re seen by other politicians, by slick lefty comedians and commentators (and indeed by those who cannot be bothered to vote at all) as ‘the Nasty Party’ which governs on behalf only of its rich friends and donors, thereby disregarding entirely the interests of the remaining 95% of the population.
In which context, simply in terms of appealing to the electorate to vote them in again, why would they ever inflict ‘austerity’ if they didn’t believe they had to?
Meanwhile the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens seem to imagine that money somehow grows on trees. They have each presented to the electorate series of policies which, if implemented, would require massive taxes rises or massive borrowing to fund and operate. Seemingly, to these three parties, balancing the books and/or living within one’s means appear to be concepts not just alien … but positively someone else’s problem and never theirs.
I’d love to see how they run their personal finances and families, that is, if they operate in their private lives by following their (public) political principles.
Presumably – if the mood takes them – they buy new cars, or fly off on Mediterranean holidays, or purchase season tickets at Stamford Bridge … and expect someone else to pay for them, rather than working hard, saving up where they can and cutting back where they cannot, in order to be able to afford these luxuries. I wonder how cordial their relationships with their personal high street banks are.
Here’s a link to a report by Chris Green on a new study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies as spotted today on the website of THE INDEPENDENT